SFU study maps wildlife conservation spending around the world
7 countries responsible for 60% of biodiversity loss in the world
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Researchers at Simon Fraser University are shedding light on parts of the world where animals are most at risk for extinction and giving wildlife advocates the data they need to prove conservation efforts can have a significant return on investment.
The seven-year study is the first to map out world conservation spending and its effect on biodiversity, said Arne Mooers, a biodiversity professor at SFU.
“Over the time period that we looked at: the late 90s and early 2000s, the world was spending about $3 billion dollars a year (on conservation). Overall – that’s not very much.”
Mooers and his team also tracked how far those conservation dollars went in different parts of the world. It turns out that a little bit of funding in poor countries went a long way, whereas even significant funding in rich countries did little to turn the dial back on biodiversity loss.
“We were able to predict how well, how far the money would go, based on other characteristics of the country. For developing countries, the investment actually goes further than in a fully developed country. That was a real surprise,” he said.
“An extra $5 million could have a huge effect.”
The analysis will help international organizations like the UN or World Wildlife Fund determine where to focus their efforts, said Mooers.
Animals living in rapidly developing areas of the world like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea are facing the greatest risk of extinction, according to the study.
“We’ve seen big drops in their biodiversity. We now know that not enough money is being spent on conservation and importantly, we know that those areas are going to develop really rapidly in the future, which means we need to put even more money into those countries,” he said.
“If we want to balance biodiversity conservation and development, then we need to think about where we invest.”
In fact, the study shows that 60 per cent of the world’s biodiversity loss is happening inside only seven countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, China, India, Australia, and the United States.
Australia is struggling despite being a rich country because many of the animals that live in Australia exist nowhere else, putting a big burden on that country to ensure those species are not killed off. At the same time, a dramatic decline in biodiversity in Hawaii is responsible for dragging the U.S. onto the list, said Mooers.
The study only took into account mammals and birds, leaving fish and reptiles out of the picture. Mooers suggested future studies could fill that gap, but said the team is waiting for feedback from conservation groups before deciding what to study next.